When Moving On Means Moving Out

Last Sunday, December the 13th, I preached to a congregation of teary-eyed Christians. I spoke slowly, weighing every word.

My topic was about Paul’s farewell to Ephesian elders, Acts 20:17-38. Not a difficult passage to exegete, but the difficulty lies in the emotions. It is in the heart.

It is not because after nine years of laboring with them, we now have seen the end of our days as a missionary; it is because the times have called us to move on, and the only recourse open to us is to move out. Out of the place of labors we have come to appreciate for its serendipity and excitement. Out of the sight of brethren we love so dearly.

As they read the passage, as they listened to me, brethren could not help but be touched, even as they recalled the hardships of my labors among them, which they all knew too well. They recalled how I walked the long distance from Cebu Trans-Central Highway to the mountains of Babag, with its unpaved road slippery and muddy even after a slight rain, on days when I had no motorcycle. They saw the dangers I had gone through preaching to their violent neighbors who would not listen, but who would even threaten me; they heard of one who almost chopped me with a machete, not because of religious disagreements but because I caught him in his sin (in his sin against me) and I confronted him. They saw my patience, as I read to them the Will of the Lord in His Word, motivating them to obey their King, which resulted to their becoming children of God. They recalled seeing me soaking wet and shivering after being caught under a storm when my motorcycle wouldn’t run. But they saw that I was happy doing what I had been doing.

Ahh… What a great fulfillment that was.

My sermon took an hour, punctuated by pauses. I even had a hard time finding the right words to say.

This afternoon, everyone looked at me as I spoke. The sun was about to say goodbye, and teardrops began to fall. I told them it would be a long time before they would see my face again.

They knew and understood. But if they have accepted what the fates offer them, what logic and practicality give them as an option, I’d say I am not sure.

At the conclusion I hugged each of them, both the ladies and the men; and they all wept profusely on my shoulder.

They asked me for prayers, and that’s what I did. After we’re done, the men left hurriedly—they could not contain their emotions.

The women? They lingered a little longer at the door of the meeting place. For one more time, I hugged them and left.


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